Flash Hawk Parlor Ensemble – Plastic Bag In The Tree

Flash Hawk Parlor Ensemble
Plastic Bag In The Tree

Flash Hawk Parlor Ensemble is the brainchild of The Decemberists lead guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Chris Funk who recruited over a dozen musician friends and neighbors to record a disparate assortment of instrumental space-folk jams, and cover tunes, resulting in a truly eclectic collection of 15 tracks called Plastic Bag In The Tree.

By truly eclectic I mean a smorgasbord of charming Americana, hi-fi meanderings through off-shoot styles of alt-country, bluegrass, and jazz with indie-rock tendencies and undulating electronics that includes instrumental covers of Radiohead, Massive Attack, Fleetwood Mac and The Kinks. And the Flash Hawk Parlor Ensemble pull it off nicely as it is all expertly performed with The Decemberists’ flair for adventure.

On first listen the tracks seem to pass for quaint soundtracks to the mind’s ruminations on a slow, sunny Sunday afternoon while sitting on the back porch sipping a gin and tonic. But closer inspection reveals some adventurous progressive folk occasionally weaved into sophisticated mini-symphonies with forays into the many diverse musical genres mentioned above.

Sprinkled across this broad musical canvas are such divergent instruments as electric guitar, hurdy gurdy, banjo, cello, bassoon, glockenspiel, lap and hammered dulcimer, dobro and English horn, to name but a few, that provide the spice while the intelligent orchestral arrangements and waves of wordless indie-pop provide the meat and potatoes.

At times the music seems a bit fickle as the styles, instruments and musicians change from track to track, including the curious addition of some operatic vocals to the last track (after a 3 minute silence). But the whole point of this ensemble is to explore whatever mood strikes the various musicians during their haze-fueled hootenannys, hopefully churning out some interesting tunes with odd arrangements while providing some great entertainment in the meantime. Most of the time Plastic Bag In The Tree doesn’t disappoint as there are enough quaint peculiarities and surreal atmospheric effects emanating from the background, especially on the Massive Attack cover “Teardrop”, the Radiohead cover “Amnesiac/Morning Bell”, and the Decememberists-like “Run Rabbit”, to make it a worthwhile endeavor.